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Monkeying With Pronouns in Quotes (Epigraphs)

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

I want to use a quote by Khalil Gibran. Normally, I'd leave the initial pronouns intact, but ... here Gibran uses "is his twin brother", but the chapter is about sisters. Thus, to keep the association going, I want to switch it to "is her twin sister".

Is this considered a legit reference if it isn't precisely what was said, or in this case, the terms an ancient, long dead translator used in the past?

In order to clarify that my version isn't the original terminology, I simply crossed out (strikethrough formatting) the original "his"/"brother", beside my replaced "her"/"sister".

Are there any ethics rules for including quotes in books regarding modifying the language to fit the context it's being applied to? Or, if not, would you think using "his twin brother" applies to two new sisters (i.e. am I overthinking this)?

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Instead of using the exact quote and attributing it directly to the author, I believe you can use the convention of having the wording you want and attribute it as 'after Khalil Gibran', showing it's his sentiment but your wording.

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Instead of using the exact quote and attributing it directly to the author, I believe you can use the convention of having the wording you want and attribute it as 'after Khalil Gibran', showing it's his sentiment but your wording.

Sorry, but I don't think I'm familiar with that particular usage (i.e. I can't picture how it's applied). Do I list "after Khalil Gibran" as the author, or use something like "as Khalil GIbran said:" or "using Khalil Gibran's 'yada-yada-yada'?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Do I list "after Khalil Gibran" as the author


According to my understanding of the convention, yes. But if you've never seen/heard of it, using it may confuse many of your readers :(

AJ

Dominions Son

As a reader, I generally ignore epigraphs all together, unless that there is some solid indication that the quote has direct bearing on the content of the chapter.

Even then, the only epigraphs I've really enjoyed are from a particular author of dead tree published paranormal romance novels. Her epigraphs are themselves fictional, being taken from books and other sources from within the world /universe the stories take place in.

Note: These novels have a strong humor element, but not so much that I would consider them RomComs.

For example in the universe that the books exist in, vampires are out to the public. They weren't outed by the government or vampire hunters, or by the vampire governing council. The were outed when an accountant in Milwaukee, WI got turned into a vampire. His employer wouldn't allow him to work night hours, so he sued under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), originally claiming to have a (very real) disease that causes a strong harmful reaction to sunlight. When that didn't fly, he admitted to being a vampire and while they tried to have him committed, he eventually proved what he was.

In that world Wall Mart has a section devoted to Vampire products, Special health and grooming products, synthetic blood products for newer vampires who don't want to feed on live humans, flavorings to give real or synthetic bloods food flavors that newly turned vampires miss, all in a wide array of odd, vampire stereotype based, or down right creepy packaging.

joyR

@Crumbly Writer

Are there any ethics rules for including quotes in books regarding modifying the language to fit the context it's being applied to? Or, if not, would you think using "his twin brother" applies to two new sisters (i.e. am I overthinking this)?


Change anything about the quote you like in order to fit with what your story needs, then simply add somewhere. "To misquote Khalil Gibran"

If you mutilate a quote completely, the quote police will not knock at your door, but your reader might well deduce you are being stupid.

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

Gibran uses "is his twin brother", but the chapter is about sisters. Thus, to keep the association going, I want to switch it to "is her twin sister".


I suggest keeping the quotes but change brother to sibling. Just a slight correction of the translation, sibling means both sister and brother.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

am I overthinking this


Maybe. It all depends on how strict you wish to be with yourself when it comes to verbatim quotes. The really strict line is make any change to a quote and you are no longer quoting your source. The more liberal stance would be minor changes, such as you are suggesting, that do not change to meaning of the quote are permissible. Of course you may want to attribute it in a manner similar to what joyR suggested.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Are there any ethics rules for including quotes in books regarding modifying the language to fit the context it's being applied to?


From http://ergo.slv.vic.gov.au/learn-skills/essay-writing-skills/using-quotes/edit-quotes :

You can also change individual words so that a quote makes sense, by putting the word you've changed in square brackets [ ].

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@REP

Maybe. It all depends on how strict you wish to be with yourself when it comes to verbatim quotes. The really strict line is make any change to a quote and you are no longer quoting your source. The more liberal stance would be minor changes, such as you are suggesting, that do not change to meaning of the quote are permissible. Of course you may want to attribute it in a manner similar to what joyR suggested.

Despite Dominions Son's dislike of non-fictional epigraphs, my readers seem to appreciate them, most often through comments about the more humorous ones. But then, I pick epigraphs which either highlight what happens within the chapter, putting a particular slant on it, or in this case, takes a humorous twist on the chapter's plot. I'm sure that many readers don't bother with them at all, but when feedback suggests something works, you tend to continue (i.e. silence=death, feedback=repetition).

But whenever there's a question about the epigraph (most often when the quote is questioned, or has been misattributed) I include an asterisk after the quote, so readers can check my included Bibliography to determine what's wrong with the standard quote. But mostly, the bibliography is there only if a reader is interested in using the quote themselves. However, I thoroughly document each quote I use (whenever possible, as I sometimes include those I can't authenticate and document).

The issue with using something like "to misquote XXX" is that the epigraph is not included as part of the story, instead, it stands alone at the top of each chapter, with only the author's name. The reader can investigate the sources in the Bibliography, but I don't pretend many readers will really care that much, which is why I'll call attention to my fudging with the quote.

In the end, it'll look like this example.

In this case, it's clear what the original (translated) words were, while it's equally obvious how I mucked with it, plus a link to the original source. I'm not sure how I can be any more clear about what I'm doing.

@Switch Blayde

You can also change individual words so that a quote makes sense, by putting the word you've changed in square brackets [ ].

That's an interesting, though less clear approach: In that case my quote would appear as:

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is [her] twin [sister].

That approach works, but it's unclear how I changed it, or why (i.e. to fit the contents of the chapter, as I'm highlighting how the character's respond to my main character, rather than clarifying the language itself.

Still, it is more straightforward, and is an accepted standard, so a few readers may be familiar with it's usage.

However, in the end, there is NO evident that Khalil ever wrote these words, despite it's widespread attribution to him, so I'm likely to drop it entirely. Still, it's nice knowing how to approach this issues in the future.

Replies:   REP  Gauthier
REP

@Crumbly Writer

Where you place your epigraph has no bearing on it being a quote. The same is true whether it is or is not part of the story. My comment regarding the strict and liberal reproduction of a quote still applies. Change any part of an epigraph or quote, and you are misquoting the originator, and should not attribute your version to that person.

Dominions Son

Where you place your epigraph has no bearing on it being a quote.


True, but where you place it has a great deal to do with whether or not it's an epigraph.

Gauthier

@Crumbly Writer

However, in the end, there is NO evident that Khalil ever wrote these words, despite it's widespread attribution to him,


So little faith in the internet quote wisdom...

Here is the context:
1928 Jesus, The Son Of Man (79 testimonies)
Chapter 26 Thomas On the forefathers of his doubts

and a link to the text.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Gauthier

Many thanks, Gauthier. I hadn't managed to uncover that source, though I'll keep it now, so I can authenticate any other Gibran quotes.

And Rep and JoyR, I'll also add the modified language (re: "misquoting ...") to my attribution, though that'll be in the bibliography, rather than the chapter containing the quote itself. However, I will add an asterix by his name to denote there are additional notes concerning the quote (this is where I typically detail misquotes or incorrectly attributed quotes).

Thanks a lot, everyone. This has not only helped a lot, but it's also saved me from having to give up on a quote I was having trouble correctly attributing.

Crumbly Writer

Update: Spent some time investigating the site which Gauthier provided to research quotes. It's interesting and useful, but suffers from a variety of issues. The search engine is atrocious! If you type in a text string, is searches for it by character, and then leaves you hanging, forcing you to wonder through the entire file, chapter by chapter, searching for it. What's worse, it searches for ANY word in the string. If one of the words is "a", "I" or "to", than any word containing those letters is selected!

Your best bet, to get around this restriction, is to download the ENTIRE document (select all, the cut & paste the entire thing to a word document) and then search THAT file the way you normally would.

The other issue is with the source material, particularly translations from other languages. You may get lucky, and it uses the same translated source you're familiar with and are searching for. More often, the phasing is completely different, and many times, the text is utter nonsense.

However, for simply looking for the book the quote is from (and you're not interested in specifics like Act, Sec, etc.) then you're fine.

Also, the site seems to specialize in Ancient European volumes, so even someone as recent as Nietzsche (late 19th Century) they only have two of his many, many books. Though their listing of older religious, philosophical or Roman and Greek books are more extensive.

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